A guided internet-based problem-solving intervention delivered through smartphones for secondary school pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic in India: Protocol for a pilot randomized controlled trial

Pattie P. Gonsalves*, Rhea Sharma, Eleanor Hodgson, Bhargav Bhat, Abhijeet Jambhale, Helen A. Weiss, Christopher G. Fairburn, Kate Cavanagh, Pim Cuijpers, Daniel Michelson, Vikram Patel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: "POD Adventures" is a gamified mental health intervention delivered via a smartphone app and supported by counsellors for a target population of secondary school students in India. This paper describes the protocol for a pilot randomized controlled trial of a remotely delivered version of the intervention in the context of COVID-19 restrictions. Objective: Our objectives are to assess the feasibility of research procedures and intervention delivery and to generate preliminary estimates of the effectiveness of the intervention to inform the sample size calculation of a full-scale trial. Methods: We will conduct a parallel, 2-arm, individually randomized pilot controlled trial in 11 secondary schools in Goa, India. This pilot trial aims to recruit 70 participants with a felt need for psychological support. Participants will receive either the POD Adventures intervention delivered over 4 weeks or usual care comprising information about local mental health services and national helplines. Outcomes will be assessed at two timepoints: Baseline and 6 weeks post randomization. Results: The first participant was enrolled on January 28, 2021, and 6-week assessment completed on April 4, 2021. Owing to a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, schools in Goa were closed on April 22, 2021. Trial participants are currently receiving the intervention or completing follow-up assessments. Conclusions: This pilot trial will help understand the feasibility of implementing and evaluating a remotely delivered digital mental health intervention in a low-resource setting. Our findings will be used to design future trials that can address difficulties of accessing psychosocial support in-person and support wider efforts to scale up evidence-based mental health interventions for young people.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30339
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number10
Early online date13 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We offer particular thanks to members of the PRIDE Scientific Advisory Group and contributions made by colleagues to intervention and research activities across the various phases of the study, including Shreyas Kamat, Bindiya Chodankar, Mamta Verma, Aarti Girap, Lalan Madkaikar, Abhija Teli, Tanvi Palekar, Mahesh Gurav, Shanu Usgaonkar, Sayukta Kesarkar, Kavita Nair, and Prakash Pednekar. The study would not be complete without the support and efforts of our design team from Quicksand Media. This study was supported by a Principal Research Fellowship awarded to VP by the Wellcome Trust (grant 106919/A/15/Z) and a School of Psychology Doctoral Research Scholarship awarded to PPG at the University of Sussex. The funders had no role in the design of the study, data collection, or the writing of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 JMIR Publications. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adolescent
  • App
  • COVID-19
  • Effective
  • Feasibility
  • India
  • Internet-based intervention
  • Intervention
  • Mental health
  • Problem-solving
  • Protocol
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Schools
  • Smartphone
  • Teenager
  • Young adult


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